Focused on Food

Chartwells, the meal service provider  at Spring Arbor University (SAU) recently invited all students to participate in a focus group to survey students’ feelings about their food. Chartwells held several group sessions on Jan. 25.

Elijah Drake, a freshman who participated in one focus group, described the session as an extensive meeting to discover his opinions regarding the various stations within the SAU Dining Commons (DC). The focus group gave feedback on four categories: quality, variety, value and staff.

Drake said the best reviews were in regard to the staff, but when it came to the other topics, he said his group had mixed views. Some thought the meals had adequate variety, while others wanted more options. Drake said the lower quality of food on the weekends was brought to Chartwells’ attention during his group’s session.

Drake said value, another category, was more important to consumers without a meal plan. Another concern presented by Chartwells was which stations in the DC were most popular and which were declared the least. According to Drake, his group chose The Grill and Create! stations as their favorites.


Photo provided by Spring Arbor University


I found these choices to be interesting and set out to see if I could replicate his results by polling a larger group than his focus group of seven. On a Monday night, I stationed myself in the lobby of Andrews Hall and asked 25 guys who came through which Chartwells food station was their favorite, and for a little more insight, I also asked which was their least favorite. Overwhelmingly the two favorite stations were Create! and The Grill which shared nearly 60 percent of the votes.  On the flip side, the Yo Bowl, Chef’s Corner, and Oven Baked Pizza stations were tied for the least favorite of the survey participants, with a combined total of 72 percent.

Overall, Drake said the employees seemed receptive, and that he is eager to see if any changes come from the survey. DC student worker Grace Comstock was able to bring some insight to the complaints made during the focus group sessions.

“As a student myself,” Comstock said, “I can relate to them. However, I also know what goes on behind the scenes and how much work goes into each meal.” Comstock said the Chartwells employees took the comments made into consideration, and that they wish to improve the meal quality in any ways they can. The whiteboard near the dish return is another important source for feedback, Comstock said.

Not all the feedback is negative, either.

“I hear a lot of complaints indirectly on and off the job,” Comstock said, “but also a lot of compliments.” Comstock said that although complaints remain valid, she still hopes students understand the hard work that is put into “making each meal a pleasant experience for the student body.”


Photo provided by Spring Arbor University